Meddlesome preferences are everywhere in the early 21st century. David Cameron in Britain and Michael Bloomberg in New York City epitomize the increased willingness of elitist busy-bodies to impose their preferences upon those who elected them into high office.
In today’s left-leaning Financial TimesJohn Gapper – the name itself sounds suitably disgusting – openly supports the meddlesome over the coerced, justifying his interventionist predilections inappropriately with reference to John Stuart Mill’s great essay On Liberty. With florid prose typical of such invaders of freedom, Gapper writes as follows:
“Both the mayor of New York,who wants to limit the size of sugary drink cups in restaurants and cinemas, and the UK prime minister, who sought minimum unit price for alcohol, lost the argument. They were portrayed as social nannies pushing policies that discriminated against the poor and minorities, who deserve some pleasures. They were still right. Societies should try to limit alcoholism and obesity, as they have cracked down on tobacco use. Freedom matters and the ideal policy is both effective and unobtrusive, but they both managed to tread the line between illiberalism and irresponsibility. As with tobacco proscriptions, they will probably be accepted in the end. John Stuart Mill defined it nicely in On Liberty: ‘The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant.’ ” John Gapper, ‘Drinking yourself to death is not a human right’, Financial Times, March 14, 2013
I have no problem with the quote from Mill. However, Gapper proceeds to mis-interpret this message disgracefully. He claims that obesity consequential on gulping down Big Gulps, and alcoholism, consequential on imbibing excessive quantities of alcohol, harm others because they raise the cost of health care across society. Let us assume that they do so. The harm that follows occurs because governments impose socialized health care upon society. They are the ones who should be castigated for invading Mill’s principle. Re-privatize health care across all age groups, and require every individual to stand on his own money-bags and there is no harm to others. Where there is – for example through drunk driving accidents or destruction of fragile furniture, simply require the offender to compensate through the court system.And make sure that court costs are fully covered by those who lose the case.
In any event, Gapper may well be hoist by his own petard. If obesity and alcoholism shorten life-spans seriously, degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cancers and strokes will be reduced in incidence. Maybe Gapper should be taxed for keeping himself alive sufficiently long as to expose society to the exceptionally high health costs of the really old. I would not recommend such action, but rather would confront Gapper with the full costs of his longevity. But Gapper realistically should clap a tax on his own frugality in order not to be branded as a complete hypocrite.